All members of the Cayman Islands Central Planning Authority have been reappointed in the wake of an audit report that raised critical questions about the authority’s operations and the personal interests of board members.
The one-year reappointment of the authority’s 13 members was effective Aug. 1, the expiry date of current appointments.
Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick reported in July that the appointed boards advising government on land development decisions are not holding open meetings, often do not provide reasons for their rulings and are made up of members who have potential conflicts of interest with certain development projects.
The Cayman Brac and Little Cayman Development Control Board was also reappointed with all currently serving members.
Members reappointed to the Cayman Islands Central Planning Authority include Chairman A.L. Thompson, Robert Selkirk Watler, Jr., Fred Whittaker, Ray Hydes, Rex Miller, Eldon Rankin, Dalkeith Bothwell, Edgar Ashton Bodden (representing the Sister Islands), Sharon Roulstone, Trent McCoy, Joseph Coe, Selvin Richardson and S.T. “Tommie” Bodden. Planning Department Director Haroon Pandohie also serves as the board’s executive secretary as part of his job in the civil service.
Reappointed members of the Cayman Brac and Little Cayman Development Control Board were announced on July 21. They are: Chairman Edgar Ashton Bodden, Capt. Arlin Tatum, Royce Dilbert, Melgreen Reid, Alva Bodden, Garston Grant, Zanda Scott and Andrea Stevens (executive secretary).
The auditor general’s office looked into whether decision-makers on the two development boards were free from the appearance of, or actual conflicts of interest as part of his review of the overall planning and land use process in the Cayman Islands earlier this year.
The Central Planning Authority has guidelines for members of the board to declare any conflicts and recuse themselves from meetings until matters related to their business, or the business of a close relative, are completed. However, those guidelines do not impose sanctions if board members do not follow the rules, nor do they require members to disclose financial interests in businesses at any time, Mr. Swarbrick noted.
The adoption of the Standards in Public Life Law in 2014 was due to introduce disclosure requirements for appointed board members, but the law was never put into effect. Premier Alden McLaughlin said last year that concerns from various appointed board members forced government to rewrite sections of the law. Updated legislation has not been brought before the House, although Mr. McLaughlin has said it is a priority for his Progressives-led government.
“The great majority of members of the Central Planning Authority appointed since August 2013 were from the development and construction industries,” Mr. Swarbrick’s report found. “While providing expertise to the Central Planning Authority, this creates a high risk of conflicts and also adversely affects the appearance of freedom from conflict.”
The auditor’s office made three recommendations to improve the functioning of the two planning boards, including that the meetings of both the Central Planning Authority and the Brac Development Control Board be open to the public and that they provide reasons for their decisions.
Auditors also recommended that board members be required to immediately fill out a register of business interests.
In its response to both recommendations, the Cayman Islands government indicated that “this is a matter for the [planning boards]” and that the civil service management could not make any promises.
The audit report also recommended that both boards be better balanced to include “members representing sectors other than the building and development industry.”
Government managers responded to the report stating that this was a matter for the elected members of the Cabinet.